The New Doctoroff: Robert Lieber Dons His Hard Hat

Construction costs for all projects are on the rise, forcing the city and state to scale back their vision or increase the public contribution. The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center expansion has been scaled back substantially in the name of higher-than-expected costs; the city and state are squabbling over who will cover cost overruns for the 1.5-mile extension of the No. 7 subway line; and the state is soon to start construction on Brooklyn Bridge Park while not having a revenue source to ensure its completion given the increase in costs.

Mr. Lieber will also face an executive in Albany that has a slightly different political schedule—Governor Spitzer faces reelection in 2010—and a tense relationship with the Legislature, especially when compared with the relatively seamless bond between the Bloomberg administration and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—though even the Council could become less cooperative as the 2009 election season nears.

And, as is so often the case with development, communities oppose most any project that would alter the character of a neighborhood.

Those projects in their early stages seem the most vulnerable. At Willets Point, the proposed redevelopment of a 60-acre automotive repair district by Shea Stadium has met resistance from business and landowners who are being threatened with eminent domain.

And at Coney Island, where the city wants to dramatically transform the amusement hub into a year-round destination, local elected officials, who are often highly influential in the needed approvals from the Legislature and City Council, have responded aggressively, charging that the Bloomberg administration is shoving a flawed plan down their throats.

Mr. Lieber, citing extensive community outreach in the planning stages, seems to see such resistance from elected officials—State Senator Carl Kruger bussed in 500 people to oppose the city at a community meeting on the plan—as lacking in substantive criticism.

“I haven’t heard any true objections about what our plan is ultimately for Coney Island. The rhetoric that exists around the different parts of it I would attribute to politics, and there’s a whole bunch of factors included in that,” he said.

For Coney Island and almost every other project on his plate (a redevelopment of Governors Island; the construction of new parkland along the Brooklyn waterfront; the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Station; the expansion of the Javits Center; and the creation of 5,000 new units of moderate income housing in Long Island City, to name a few), Mr. Lieber said he sees a constant theme of what his work will entail, for which he offered an analogy.

“At 211 degrees, water doesn’t do anything; it just sits in the pot. At 212 degrees, that’s when you actually get something to happen,” Mr. Lieber said. “Our job is to get these projects to the boiling point, if you will, so we can actually make things happen, and not just say, ‘Jeez, we really tried hard, did a lot of work, worked really, really hard,’ and not have anything to show for it.”